Millions of Unusual Creatures Come to America
- by Jacurutu99, 25 August 2016
In the beginning, 2 inch tall mini-figure lines of collectible erasers composed of monsters and aliens became known as Keshi. They came from Japan!
Keshi described what they were generally made out of. Keshi for short, keshigomu were "rubber gum" figures and also referred as "eraser gum" figures, however they were rarely soft enough to be used like that.
Popular Keshi would grow to often feature highly-detailed sculpts, made out of a solid, durable plastic. They were introduced in the 1970s, becoming instantly popular with school-aged children who could easily buy a figure from a vending machine using loose change, With a low price and high collectability factor, as well as the crazy character designs, Keshi caught on quick.
Although vending machine Keshi were often considered as standard size, three different materials are used, hard gum, plastic or gum w/plastic parts. Even though dark salmon matte color mini figures are the quickest types identified as Keshi in western countries, due to the famous M.U.S.C.L.E. line, there are actually a wide variety of gum from matte to bright, from translucent to transparent, from white to black, including the deluxe painted types.
The first came under the name Monster Toss, and included a little plastic flipper in addition to the figures and can. The idea was that you'd use the flipper to try to fling the monsters into the can (hours and hours of fun). They were also released under the name Handful of Monsters, with six figures in a simple carded blister pack. Handfull of Monsters packages seem to be less commonly found than Canfull of Monsters or Monster Toss.
Meanwhile back in Japan, the “Kinnikuman” Keshi created for the popular pro-wrestling based Japanese manga and cartoon, were extremely popular; so popular that it created its own subgenre of toy, known as Kinkeshi.
The Keshi phenomenon truly sped-up worldwide in the late 1980s, as Kinnikuman Keshi were adapted to become the most popular Keshi franchise ever in M.U.S.C.L.E.(“Millions of unusual small creatures lurking everywhere!") in America. They were small pink wrestling figures with the flair of strange, out of this world, fantasy and humor. They, along with bootlegs, started to appear in gumball machines in the states in the mid to late 80's. M.U.S.C.L.E. felt strange, very strange, having swam across the sea with very little information. Japan had anime shows, conventions, a full line of merch, and more to help understand the line, where the states barely had the figures alone. Any Mother who came across the “Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere,” within the cushions of the family couch certainly found that name appropriate.
The glory of Kinnikuman. Click on each image to enlarge.
The original M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were sold in packages of four, ten, or 28. Because all of the packages contained a random assortment of figures, collecting the entire 236-figure collection was very difficult. Kids often wound up with dozens of duplicates, which is good for collectors today; large lots of these toys often surface on eBay for reasonable prices. In later years, Mattel began incorporating neon-colored versions of the same figures, and eventually scrapped the flesh-colored figures all together in favor of the colorful neon toys.
In addition to the figures, other M.U.S.C.L.E. merchandise included a board game, Nintendo video game, a toy championship belt and a small ring.
Not all Kinkeshi sculpts were imported into the MUSCLE line! The Japanese Kinnikuman line had over 400 figures available, while we here in America only had 236. That means at least 164 more Kinnikuman exist.
Over the years, rare figures and previously unknown variants began to pop up. As recently as 2009 collectors were discovering obscure M.U.S.C.L.E. toys that were never announced or included on a mailaway poster that also served as a checklist. The most popular of these is a four-armed figure often called “SatanCross,” which usually sells in the $50-75 range.
The elusive SatanCross and the mailaway M.U.S.C.L.E. poster. Click on each image to enlarge.
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